Novelty and Emotion
Novel or distinctive events are remembered well. For example, pictures that are made novel by presenting them in a relatively uncommon color are associated with enhanced recollection and familiarity based recognition memory.
Patients with damage to the medial temporal lobe fail to exhibit a novelty advantage in memory, even when their performance is matched to that of controls. In addition, damage to the prefrontal cortex also appears to disrupt these novelty effects as well. These results support models of novelty detection postulating an interaction between frontal monitoring mechanisms and medial temporal lobe retrieval mechanisms.
In contrast to the effects of novelty, emotionally arousing stimuli are associated with greater recollection, but comparable levels of familiarity, relative to neutral stimuli. In addition, hippocampal damage does not reduce the recognition advantage associated with emotion. Also, unlike novelty effects, the emotion advantage in recognition is not apparent immediately after the information is studied, but rather requires at least an hour to materialize, implicating a time dependent mechanism such as consolidation or interference reduction.
Although stress can often interfere with memory, stressful events like skydiving can slow the forgetting of materials that were studied just prior to the stressful event. Current studies are examining the neural processes involved in producing these positive effects of stress.